No. 213 UCDA P150/2548

Letter from Eamon de Valera to Neville Chamberlain (London)

Dublin, 4 July 1940

The memorandum handed to me by Mr. MacDonald,1 and your letter of June 29th,2 have been considered by my Government.

We are unable to accept the plan outlined, which we note is purely tentative and has not been submitted to Lord Craigavon and his colleagues.

The plan would involve our entry into the war. That is a course for which we could not accept responsibility. Our people would be quite unprepared for it, and Dáil Éireann would certainly reject it.

We are, of course, aware that the policy of neutrality has its dangers, but, on the other hand, departure from it would involve us in dangers greater still.

The plan would commit us definitely to an immediate abandonment of our neutrality. On the other hand, it gives no guarantee that in the end we would have a united Ireland, unless indeed concessions were made to Lord Craigavon opposed to the sentiments and aspirations of the great majority of the Irish people.

Our present Constitution represents the limit to which we believe our people are prepared to go to meet the sentiments of the Northern Unionists, but, on the plan proposed, Lord Craigavon and his colleagues could at any stage render the whole project nugatory and prevent the desired unification by demanding concessions to which the majority of the people could not agree. By such methods unity was prevented in the past, and it is obvious that under the plan outlined they could be used again. The only way in which the unity which is so needed can in our view be secured is, as I explained to Mr. MacDonald, by the immediate establishment of a single sovereign all-Ireland Parliament, free to decide all matters of national policy, internal and external – the Government which it would elect being responsible for taking the most effective measures for national defence.

It was in this connection that I suggested as a line to be explored the possibility of creating such a parliament by the entry into the parliament here of the present representatives in the parliament at Belfast.

I regret that my proposal that the unity of Ireland should be established on the basis of the whole country becoming neutral is unacceptable to your government. On the basis of unity and neutrality we could mobilise the whole of the manpower of this country for the national defence. That, with the high morale which could thus be secured and the support of the Irish race throughout the world, would constitute the most effective bulwark against attack, and would provide the surest guarantee against any part of our territory being used as a base for operations against Britain.

The course suggested in your plan could only lead to internal weakness and eventual frustration.

Yours sincerely,
(Signed) Eamon de Valera

1 Not printed, but see No. 208.

2 Not printed, but see No. 208.

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